Promoting diversity in boardroom Women Corporate Directors Foundation launches Sri Lanka chapter
WCD, KPMG LLP and IFC join forces to increase the number of women on corporate boards in Sri Lanka
In a bid to promote boardroom diversity and establish a network of existing and prospective women directors, the Women Corporate Directors Foundation (WCD)—the largest organization of women corporate board members globally—launched its first local chapter in Sri Lanka last week (1).
Supported by IFC (International Finance Corporation – a sister organization of the World Bank and member of the World Bank Group, under the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program, this initiative aims to offer a platform for Sri Lankan women board members to share industry expertise while helping the country increase its pipeline of aspiring and qualified female board members.
In Sri Lanka, despite higher education, women are significantly underrepresented in the labor force. Only around one in three women of working age are employed. This gap further widens among senior managers, board members, and business owners. The percentage of women among board members of listed entities in Sri Lanka is also low, compared to South Asian peers such as India (12 percent) and Bangladesh (17 percent). According to IFC’s latest findings, around 9.5 percent of board directors on the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) listed companies are women.
“Despite the low numbers on women on boards, Sri Lanka has a well-accomplished pool of women directors representing a wide spectrum of industries. In this context, as part of WCD’s growing presence in Asia-Pacific, we are delighted to launch our first-ever local chapter in the country,” said Susan Stautberg, WCD CEO and Chairperson. “As a WCD member, Sri Lankan women directors will have better access to trends and expertise from global economies, helping strengthen their knowledge when advocating for improved corporate governance practices for businesses.”
A significant and growing body of research points to the business benefits associated with gender diversity on boards and in senior management, including increased financial performance and productivity as well as improved environment, social and governance (ESG) practices. In Sri Lanka, IFC’s research highlighted that the top 30 CSE-listed companies with higher gender diversity perform better in terms of financial measures, including return on equity, return on total assets, and price to earnings ratio.
“Diversity is not just a moral imperative, it also makes perfect business sense,” said Alfonso Garcia Mora, IFC’s Vice President for Asia and Pacific. “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that companies with better environment, social and governance (ESG) practices and board diversity have been more resilient in recovery.”
The launch of the Sri Lanka Women Corporate Directors chapter will be a significant step in raising the profile of women board directors who help create value for businesses in the country. The demonstration effect of this competitive advantage of having aspiring women board members or senior managers who are ‘board ready’ is critical to build leadership pipelines for boards.
“Australia has a steadfast commitment to be at the forefront in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Through this latest initiative under the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program, we hope to continue our push towards enhancing greater equality and diversity in Sri Lanka’s private sector,” said David Holly, Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka. “I believe that the 16 founding members of the Sri Lanka Chapter of Women’s Corporate Directors (WCD) would play a significant role in taking this agenda forward. My congratulations to them.”
The Women Directors Forum of Sri Lanka Institute of Directors (SLID) will play a catalytic role in this initiative as the co-chair of the local WCD chapter. In addition, the Sri Lanka chapter will also be supported by KPMG LLP, one of the largest professional services firms and also the oldest Chartered Accountancy firm in the country.
Technical Certificates of Completion for 64 out of 74 plots of Port City Colombo SEZ
Technical Certificates of Completion for 64 out of 74 plots of the Port City Colombo SEZ have been received by the Commission, a Colombo Port City Economic Commission semi-annual progress report for FY 2022 notes.
A press release by the Commssion said: ‘The Colombo Port City Economic Commission (the Commission), the Single Window Investment Facilitator authorised to assist investors, businesses, and residents in conducting their activities seamlessly and efficiently in Port City Colombo, is pleased to release its semi-annual progress report for FY 2022 from July to December 2022.
‘The Port City Colombo Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is designed to be a prestigious, strategically located city in the heart of South Asia, with sustainable high-quality public spaces and infrastructure, providing top-quality commercial, entertainment, medical, education and lifestyle. International destinations such as DIFC, DMCC, Labuan, Singapore, and Mauritius were studied for their regulatory frameworks, fiscal incentives, and operational efficiency to identify the most competitive processes and policies for Port City Colombo. The benchmarking study was done by global consultants such as Boston Consulting Group, PwC, KPMG, EY, Pinsent Masons, Zico Law, JLL, etc., for the SEZ’s thrust sectors, supported by market feedback on both fiscal and non-fiscal parameters.
‘Port City Colombo SEZ Regulations for the registration, licensing, authorisation and other approvals of Authorised Persons, were published by extraordinary gazette in September 2022, bearing number 2299/46. The SEZ’s Regulations for the registration and licensing of Authorised Person Fees, were also gazetted in September 2022, bearing number 2299/47. The registration of offshore company regulations were gazetted in the month of November 2022, bearing number 2306/54.
‘Agreements have been signed between the Commission and the Registrar General of Companies and Controller General of Immigration and Emigration in order to streamline services offered to Authorised Persons.
‘Sectoral Progress Highlights:
Banking – The Minister of Finance issued licences under the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Act to four (4) banks during the first half of 2022. The Commission has since received requests from three (3) more banks during 2022. Additionally, 10 Financial and Banking Regulations were also drafted under Sections 44 and Sections 45 of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Act No. 11 of 2021 and are awaiting review with the Monetary Board of Sri Lanka.
Security – The Sri Lanka Police opened a Post on-site for visitor protection, with water access control and lifeguard services being handed to the Sri Lanka Navy. CCTV networks were also installed in public areas.
Social Infrastructure – In addition to an internationally-reputed hospital and school, the Commission has identified the need for a world-class university within Port City Colombo and modified the Master Plan accordingly.
Commercial Infrastructure – With the retail mall infrastructure complete, the commencement of the interior work has begun. The mall will showcase premium merchandise, with an array of cuisine options and entertainment, and is set to commence operations by Q2 of 2023.
Immigration and Visa Arrangements – In collaboration with the Department of Immigration and Emigration, the Commission has introduced three (3) new visa categories for Port City Colombo. These 3 visa categories are – the Investor visa for ten (10) years, the Employment visa for up to five (5) years, and the Resident visa for five (5) years. Port City Colombo visas allow supplementary benefits, such as visas for the spouse, kids, and other support staff members, which can be obtained under the primary visa applicant. The visa fee is USD 200 per year for each applicant. Visas are renewable as required and applicable only to Foreign Investors.
Master Plan Implementation – A planning committee consisting of key stakeholders was created to expedite the approval of building plans submitted under the Development Control Regulations (DCRs) for each plot of the Port City Colombo SEZ. The DCRs provide a clear framework for the development of buildings, land use, green spaces, utility networks, and sustainability measures, among other factors.
Preliminary designs for the Marina Development and Villa Project have been submitted by two investors, with several more plots in the final stages of discussion for lease.
New wealth tax proposals exert negative impact on shares
By Hiran H. Senewiratne
CSE trading activities yesterday were somewhat negative because investors were worried about the impact of the IMF-inspired new wealth tax proposals on citizens, market analysts said.
Apart from profit- takings, the effects of the new direct tax system on citizens created some confusion for stock market investors, analysts said. This was also highlighted by President Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament yesterday.
Amid those developments both indices moved downward. The All Share Price Index went down by 77.4 points and S and P SL-20 declined by 24.6 points. Turnover stood at Rs 1.5 billion with one crossing. The crossing was reported in First Capital Holdings, which crossed one million shares to the tune of Rs 33 million; its shares traded at Rs 33.
In the retail market, top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; SLT Rs 428 million (4 million shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 115 million (651,000 shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 98.7 million (716000 shares traded), Lanka Hospitals Rs 57.2 million (440,000 shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 51million (7.5 million shares traded), Capital Alliance Rs 50.40 million (1.5 million shares traded) and First Capital Treasuries Rs 46.2 million (two million shares traded). During the day 69.9 million shares volumes changed hands in 21000 transactions.
Yesterday the rupee appreciated against the US dollar. The buying rate was Rs 312.61 and the selling rate Rs 330.16. Further, the price of gold also reduced due to the rupee appreciation.
Dialog, Sri Lanka Air Force & EWIS provides digital education to Ravaneswaran Tamil School, Trincomalee
Dialog Axiata PLC recently joined hands with the Sri Lanka Air Force and E-W Information Systems Ltd to re-furbish the computer laboratory of the Ravaneswaran Tamil School in Kanniya, Trincomalee and upgraded the facility with digital educational tools and equipment. This worthy cause was initiated and directed by the Commander of Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) and the Group Chief Executive of Dialog Axiata PLC.
Dialog provided Magicbit Pro units with full pluggable and sensor modules to explore creativity with technology. Magicbit is an innovation platform and a STEM tool made for Internet of Things (loT), Robotics, Electronics and Programming. Dialog, furthermore, provided Nenasa TV facility and a pledged support for fully paid student broadband facility. Nenasa TV is a Public-Private-Partnership with the Ministry of Education; an initiative to support grade 1 to 13 students through eight dedicated TV channels in Sinhalese and Tamil. The content aired on each channel is provided and strictly monitored by the Ministry of Education.
The Sri Lanka Air Force in China Bay swiftly provided the labour for all civil work and assisted in repairing computers which needed attention, in a span of a few days. E-W Information Systems Ltd provided brand new desktop computers and sourced some of the hardware required to restore the remaining machines, together with Dialog.
Thamotharampillai Sivanantham, Principal of Ravaneswaran Tamil School, expressed his views on this occasion “Our children had an IT laboratory, but with hardly any usable equipment. Still one of our students won the Regional ICT award in 2022. I am very positive our students will fully benefit from the new ICT equipment and internet services. Additionally, our facility was beautifully restored in just a few days. On behalf of the school administration, parents & students I would like to thank Dialog, Sri Lanka Airforce and EWIS for coming together and providing us this service”.
The students and the school administration were overwhelmed by this generosity, a need for many years. Dialog also offered teacher-student training in the use of the technology and will continue to provide service and support on connectivity and together with the SLAF and EWIS would continue to monitor the progress achieved by the school through the provided technology and pledged further assistance in time. This worthy cause was executed parallel to the 10th edition of the Commanders’ Cup golf tournament in Trincomalee, which was sponsored by Dialog Enterprise.
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